(Source: MJ/Robin Gomes, Vatican News)

As the conflict in Yemen entered its sixth year last week, human rights, peace and humanitarian groups from 10 European countries launched an online protest against those fuelling the war.

Pax Christi Germany, together with over 30 non-governmental peace and human rights organizations of Europe, are protesting against arms exports from Europe fuelling the “forgotten” war in Yemen. 

Among the protesters are the Italian Network for Disarmament and the UK-based Campaign against arms trafficking (CAAT).

The conflict in the Arab world’s poorest country was sparked by the Shia-led Houthi rebels taking control of Yemen’s capital Sanaa in 2014, which sent the internationally-recognised government of Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi fleeing to exile. 

Since March 25, 2015, a Western-backed Saudi-led Sunni Muslim coalition that includes the United Arab Emirates (UAE), has been fighting the Houthis.

The conflict has killed at least 12,000 people

With some 2 million children under the age of 5, about 1 million pregnant and lactating women and 24 million people in desperate need of humanitarian aid, the United Nations has described it as “the worst humanitarian catastrophe caused by man”. 

Europe’s arms supply

According to Pax Christi Germany, Europe bears a heavy responsibility for the war.

It said that between 2015 and 2018 European countries exported an estimated €40-billion worth of arms to the Saudi-led coalition.

Germany alone is reported to have approved arms exports worth over €6.3 billion.

In the last 2 years, numerous countries have cut down on their exports to the coalition because of court orders.

However, several arms manufacturers and governments are pressing for an end to the restrictions, despite the fact that the war continues to claim victims, as Pope Francis has repeatedly recalled.

Social media campaign

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Pax Christi suggested the protest be online.

European citizens have been invited to post and share selfie photos on the social media with the appeal: “Stop arms exports for war in Yemen!” or “No support for the coalition led by Saudi Arabia!”

A glimmer of hope for peace appeared last Thursday as Yemen’s warring parties welcomed a United Nations call for an immediate truce in the country where a coronavirus outbreak could exacerbate the already deep humanitarian crisis.

The Saudi-led coalition said late on Wednesday that it backed the Yemeni government’s acceptance of the U.N. appeal. The Houthi rebels welcomed the stance but said it wants to see implementation on the ground.

Pax Christi International, based in Brussels, Belgium, is a Catholic peace movement with 120 member organisations worldwide that promotes peace, respect for human rights, justice and reconciliation throughout the world.

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Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.